|I’ve read several McKinty books, but the Sean Duffy series is the best. Originally billed as a trilogy, I was delighted to see a fourth appear. Set during the Troubles, Sean is a Catholic cop in a Protestant world who makes sure to check the bottom of his car every day for bombs that might have been planted while he was away.|
He watches as his superiors fuck up capturing a boatload of arms from America, then bails out his Chief Inspector in a brothel where a local pro has just whacked an American movie star on the head when he got a little rough after she refused to partake in his substantial stash of cocaine.
Sean then gets involved in the investigation of the murder of two prominent people, apparently a hit that’s first blamed on their son who left an apology and a suicide note before jumping off a cliff. But when his girl-friend is also found dead, with a suicide note and the motor running in her car, the coincidence seems forced and the autopsy reveals signs of murder. The new Jewish detective in the squad, a very bright Oxford grad manages to sniff out a connection with another death at a party in Oxford. Couple that with the return of MI5 agent Kate who wants to enlist Sean in the security service, and you have the makings of a nifty mystery.
I really like McKinty’s writing of Sean’s voice, melancholy mixed with humor. For example a scene at a church-sponsored dating social dance. All the girls make excuses when they discover he's a cop:
"I fought a strong urge to flee and introduced myself to a girl called Sandra who looked a bit like Janice from The Muppet Show band. She was an estate agent who sold houses all over East Antrim. “We’ve got something in common. I’m a peeler,”I said. “What do we have in common?” “Well, uh, both of us are at home to a certain amount of moral ambiguity in our work.” No hesitant buyer ever got up Sandra’s nose the way I instantly did, and she told me coldly that she had to mingle. Later I saw her dancing with a very tall man whose face was like a Landsat image of the Mojave. "
"The word went round and none of the other women came close. I didn’t blame them. If you were a single lady, getting on in years, or worse, a widow, the last thing you wanted to do was marry a policeman who could be killed next week. It certainly didn’t help that I was a Catholic. A Catholic in Carrickfergus was bad enough, but a Catholic policeman? My life expectancy could be measured in dog years."
And for some reason, perhaps my antipathy to B&B’s, this passage had me laughing out loud. Sean and Lawson are sent to Oxford where they are put up in a Victorian B&B run by a couple of eccentrics. She hands them their keys with the warning, “Now, Mr. Duffy, it’s the off-season at present, of course, so I can let you have the two rooms overlooking the garden—213, 214,” she said. “Keep the windows closed, mind. The squirrels will come in. We had a shocking incident two years ago with a gentleman from Norway.” That shocking incident with the squirrel….
One interesting note given some current political events in Ireland. Gerry Adams makes an appearance as an IRA leader in the book. Make of that what you will.
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